A Tesla Model 3 driver got into an accident while using the touchscreen to adjust the speed of the automatic windshield wipers. In Model 3 and Model Y vehicles, Tesla didn't install normal windshield wiper settings through a steering wheel stalk.
Instead, the carmaker is detecting the rain through its Autopilot cameras and automatically adjusting the speed based on the strength of the rainfall. If the driver wants to adjust the speed, they need to do it through the touchscreen.
The driver in Germany was adjusting those settings when he lost control of the vehicle and crashed. A local district court gave him a fine and a one month driving ban. However he decided to fight the punishment -- bringing the case to the Higher Regional Court (OLG).
The OLG judge ruled:
“The touchscreen permanently installed in the vehicle of the Tesla brand is an electronic device within the meaning of Section 23 (1a) sentence 1 and 2 StVO, the operation of which the motor vehicle driver is only permitted under the conditions of this regulation It does not matter which purpose the driver pursues with the operation, and the setting of the functions required to operate the motor vehicle via the touchscreen (here: setting the wiper interval of the windshield wiper) is therefore only permitted if this is done with a short, Street, traffic, visibility and weather conditions adapted to the view of the screen while at the same time looking away from the traffic is connected “
The judgment sets a precedent for future Tesla drivers about the use of the touchscreen for “functions required to operate the motor vehicle”.